In Osaka, Universal Studios has been gearing up to open a unique take on the theme park experience. Super Nintendo World will be fully immersive, and is intended to make visitors feel like they’re inside a game with their favourite Nintendo characters.
Visitors to the park each get a Power Up Band, themed on a different Mushroom Kingdom character. Worn around the wrist, it connects to a specially designed app where visitors collect digital coins and compete with others, or team-up to unlock challenges including Boss Battles.
“Think of Super Nintendo World as a life-size, living video game where you become one of the characters,” says Thierry Coup, senior vice president and chief creative officer of Universal Creative. “You’re not just playing the game; you’re living the game, you’re living the adventure. Nintendo’s most iconic locations and experiences will be brought to life, including Mushroom Kingdom, Peach’s Castle, an incredible Mario Kart ride, Bowser’s Castle – and more.”
There’ll be lots of Mario-related adventures – and a second confirmed ride called Yoshi’s Adventure, which is rumoured to have cars that look like the beloved green dinosaur. Alongside three levels of rides, there will be shops and a restaurant, while a map will be featured on the app to help visitors navigate around all the different attractions.
Japan has plenty of immersive theme parks already – Universal Studios Osaka already has a Harry Potter experience and a Minion Park, plus there’s an Anime Forest theme park, complete with zip-line and glamping, on Awaji Island – but this will be the most technology-driven, with the smart wearable wristband device making visitors part of a huge, real-life video game.
Nintendo, which began as a playing-card maker in the 1880s, has grown into one of the world’s largest gaming companies, synonymous with Japan’s hi-tech image. But this isn’t the company’s first foray outside the world of games – over the years Nintendo opened up a “love hotel” with rooms by the hour, a taxi company and an instant rice venture, before finding success again in video games. But something’s telling us the theme park idea will be more of a hit.
Super Nintendo World was originally due to open in time for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 (with further locations also in the pipeline for Singapore, Orlando and Hollywood). While the lockdown has put all this on hold, the park is due to open when the situation eases.
When Japan opens up to visitors again, Super Nintendo World will provide a good reason for visitors to venture outside Tokyo to its often-overlooked third city. While many tend to skip it in favour of Tokyo and Kyoto, Osaka is worth a visit for its thriving independent bar and comedy scenes – and the okonomiyaki.
For now, though, there’s a high-energy theme song for Super Nintendo World by Swedish duo Galantis and Charli XCX called We Are Born To Play. In the music video – which acts as a trailer for the park – gamers run and dance around a huge Mario nostalgia-filled game, overlooked by Charli XCX dressed as Princess Peach.